Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Monday March 3, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
I’ve seen better races (lots of them) and worse races (a few of them) than Talladega on Sunday, but I simply can’t recall a single race that pissed more fans off. Maybe it’s for the best I don’t have this Twitter thing everybody is always talking about because I’m told I only saw the tip of the iceberg. Twitter comments on Talladega were absolutely toxic. If I were in charge of selling tickets to next year’s two races at Talladega I’d be cleaning up my resume starting now because it’s going to be a tough sell. (As if in this economy the job was easy to start with).
One of the things that left some fans fuming was Trevor Bayne agreeing to work with Jeff Gordon for the final two laps then leaving him hanging in the breeze. Bayne’s quasi-teammate (and Chase contender) Matt Kenseth had lost his wingman David Ragan and needed Bayne’s help. Gordon was livid after the race. Bayne was apologetic though Gordon was hardly the first driver at Talladega to get left hanging after an implied agreement. I recall Davey Allison being so angry after one of those Talladega plate races (July, 1991) he punched his transporter and broke his hand. Why? Prior to the race the Ford drivers had all agreed to work together to get a Blue Oval into victory lane and derail that damned black number No. 3 car. The plan seemed to be working too. With two laps to go Allison, being pushed by Bill Elliott, Mark Martin and Sterling Marlin all in Fords, nosed ahead of Earnhardt. But Elliott decided it looked like Earnhardt was faster and jumped in behind that infamous black car. The rest of the trailing Fords followed Elliott. Earnhardt won, Elliott finished second, Allison finished ninth and broke his hand. The more things change the more they stay the same. Only this time no trailers got punched though one did go up in flames.
After the race Bayne said he was following orders. With no ride lined up for next year as of yet, he’d have to be pretty wary of pissing off the folks at Ford despite having won this year’s Daytona 500. Bayne’s contrition seemed genuine and it was the talk of Twitter. But now top Ford brass say Bayne was never given such an order. He was thanked for being a member of the Ford family and told if he could help out one of the championship contending Fords time to time that would be just dandy. Hmmm. The BS meter is pegged here. Other younger and less experienced Ford drivers talked about getting the same orders while the more seasoned veterans just smiled shyly and refused to confirm or deny the report. Having discussed the matter so openly Bayne likely yielded the seat in the No. 21 Ford to Ricky Stenhouse for next year.
So why the sudden about face? Two reasons I’d hazard. Firstly the “all for one” strategy didn’t play well with the public, potential car buyers one and all, and even ticked a lot of them off. Secondly payback is a bitch. Only Tony Stewart said it out loud but those drivers in Chevys, Dodges and Toyotas can make life difficult for the Ford boys. There’s all sorts of ways they can do so many of them subtle. A driver doesn’t have to yield to a faster driver trying to pass him. He can let that other fellow burn up his tires trying to get by even while the lead pack draws further off. A driver can choose to pit deep into his pit box to slow down the stop of the driver in the stall ahead of him or behind him. A little nudge to the fender here or there can knock out that other guy’s steering alignment or force him to the pits to get a tire replaced and a fender pulled out. Heck, if we’re going to play by a new rule where it’s part of your job to help your car manufacturer claim the title why not have Martin and Logano act as four wheeled battering rams on the No. 99 and No. 17 cars?
Another thing that unexpectedly drew the fans ire was the open admission that a lot of drivers had picked a partner, usually a teammate, to work with during the entire race. Such things have happened before but never so openly the network broadcasting the race could show a long list of the expected “dancing partners.” And I’ve never seen the strategy play out so blatantly with one driver willing to drop all the way to the back to pick up his lost buddy. It got to the point drivers were waiting for their partners in the pits or during caution flag stops even choreographing getting another car between them and their intended so the twosome would be lined up nose to tail on the restart. It was hard to swallow and I don’t blame other folks for being irritated.
Perhaps the issue drawing the most fire from the fans this week is the decision by many top drivers to cruise around in the back of the field until there were ten to twenty laps left to go. Here’s the rub. Jimmie Johnson fans came to see him race. Jeff Gordon fans came to see him race. Carl Edwards fans came to see him race. And oh, did Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s legion of fans come to see him RACE and perhaps even finally win a race again. It was pretty hard to ignore the massive cheer that went up in the stands when Earnhardt did lead briefly to get his one point bonus for having led a lap. An Earnhardt win would do more to sell tickets at every track on the circuit than anything I can imagine other than free beer in the grandstands. And it would doubtless help raise TV ratings for the races back above the Cannibal Cooking Channel.
Earnhardt himself seemed at times irritated by his team orders. He prefers to run up front and listen to his fans cheer. But he’d been paired with Johnson and Johnson wanted to cruise around in the back of the pack. Junior tends to see things as I do. If you’re leading at Talladega it’s unlikely anyone is going to wreck ahead of you until you start lapping the field. A lot of folks were simply delighted that Johnson and Gordon suffered poor finishes as well. But the main focus of attention was Carl Edwards.
That’s kind of odd because there at the end Edwards did indeed make a charge to the front…for all of two laps en route to an eleventh place finish. (Yes, it’s obscene that a 500 mile race is decided routinely in the final 5.2 miles but we’ll get to that). Talladega has never been kind to Edwards so he wasn’t there to race, he was there to Chase, preserve his points lead and potentially, successfully as it turned out, leave some of the less wary Chasers trying to run him down in the dust. It might have been a good move strategically but it wasn’t much fun to watch. It’s sort of like punting in a third and long situation with your team up by 3 and time running down. I think it would be deliciously ironic if Edwards were to lose this year’s title to Brad Keselowski, who actually did race much of the event, by the same seven points he surrendered at Talladega. Think it can’t happen? Remember Denny Hamlin arrived at Phoenix last year with the points lead and two races left to run.
Of course those of us who still cook our meat rather than eating it raw and have and IQ above room temperature weren’t real thrilled by the carnage of the race even if it is to be expected at Talladega. Kurt Busch, Bobby Labonte and Regan Smith in particular all took hard hits. Some folks seem to think a driver can’t die at a track with SAFER barriers but NASCAR seems determined to prove them wrong. Of course you have to expect a lot of wrecking when fully half the drivers out there can’t see where they’re going. The trailing driver in a tandem might as well be blindfolded. It would appear NASCAR’s experiment in breaking up the tandems by giving the teams larger restrictor plates, lowering allowable coolant system pressures and banning some (but clearly not all) methods of making the bumpers more slippery was a dismal failure. So what’s next? Oh, those lamebrains down in Daytona will come up with something else that won’t work.
Face it. They tried the plates after Bobby Allison’s car almost got into the grandstands. (Though to my eye Carl Edwards car came just as close to breaching the fence). They tried those taxicab strips in a race that proved to be fatal. They’ve tried bigger and smaller plates, this aero package and that aero package, rules about staying above the yellow line and making the fuel cells smaller. Nothing has worked. At Talladega and Daytona we’re always left with one of three things: A) A single file parade which fans hate. B) A huge snarling two and three wide pack ten or twelve deep which the fans hate or C) This tandem racing nonsense which the fans hate.
So what’s the solution? It’s time for NASCAR and the ISC to bite the bullet and do what they should have done back in 1988 when Bobby Allison had that scary wreck. Dig up the antiquated tracks at Daytona and Talladega, lower the banking, remove the lowest fifteen rows of grandstand seats, take off the plates and let the drivers race. And how is Talladega going to pay for that? I don’t know what scrap metal dealers are paying for aluminum in Alabama but it surely does seem they’ve got a whole lot of grandstand seats that become increasingly unwanted every year.
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The best paragraph I’ve ever read. “ I think it would be deliciously ironic if Edwards were to lose this year’s title to Brad Keselowski, who actually did race much of the event, by the same seven points he surrendered at Talladega. Think it can’t happen? Remember Denny Hamlin arrived at Phoenix last year with the points lead and two races left to run.”
And I certainly agree that Earnhardt loves to race Dega…especially for the fans. What a sham the RP tracks have become.
It’s the same thing the Indycars suffer at the intermediate tracks. Too much grip, too little power leading to driver talent being negated and everyone running in a big pack fighting for scraps.
Maybe NASCAR could mandate narrower grill openings or have the right sides of the grill taped shut since they can’t bump the left sides.
I have not missed NASCAR at all since I started finding something else to do with my Sunday afternoons. But I still read your columns Matt, and this one is right on. Restrictor plate racing has ALWAYS sucked, and it will kill another driver someday. Add the idiotic playoff and you get races like this last Sunday. It’s laughable to hear Jack say there weren’t any team orders.
We ex-fans aren’t exaggerating when we talk about what a joke this sport’s become. It really is a farce anymore. Well done Brian.
I don’t care what they have to do but the 2×2 racing has to go. The whole partner thing and who is going with who sounds more like a high-school prom than a race. There is no way that the strategy for any race should involve one driver having to be tethered to another driver in order to be competitive.
First, I have total respect for the drivers. I was lucky enough to run on the Talledega track last spring and they let my little Yaris run flat out (there was a picture on their website of my tiny little black yaris running on the track-very cool). I was amazed at how little the drivers can actually see in the turns (I had to look at the upper left corner of the A pillar to see anything ahead of me). But last weekend I was online iRacing instead. Obviously a lot of people decided staying home was a good idea too. And with all the discounts for seats it’s not the economy…it’s the racing!
i too hope brad and surprise everyone. roush won’t be happy and i’ll laugh myself silly.
with the number of empty seats and sections, and i kept receiving emails from the track up til thursday of last week about special pricing, lowering the banking and moving the walls/fence back 15 sections won’t hurt ticket sales.
earnhardt finally winning is what nascar needs, as much as it needs a champion other than johnson. with the hendrick cars starting up front what a farce it was last sunday at the end. jr has become a company boy and i know his stomach was probably eaten up with acid by staying in the back. i loved how tv kept telling us “jr is being patient”. jr was probably swearing up a blue streak. think daddy would have listented to team orders? him and the teammates he had NEVER got along. i can only imagine the ear full he would have given in a post-race interview this past weekend.
as i’ve said before, stick a fork in it, nascar is done.
After NASCAR repaved both Daytona and Talladega, I don’t see them ripping it all apart anytime soon.
I also don’t see anything wrong with pack racing. It was a lot better than what we have now when partners and politics are more important than the racing.
I agree with Matt L. At least with pack racing you could get into a pack and race without the ‘partner’ crap going on. I used to love seeing someone come down and take 5-6 cars with them and move to the front. This dosie-do racing is for the birds.
Once upon a time, a long time ago in a faraway land a crafty old codger screwed me blue. In my highest and most righteous wrath I told him so.
He looked me in mine eye, kind of shrugged, and spake unto me saying:
“Sumpin’ come up.”
So was my education advanced. :)
Davey Allison famously said he was all for Fords working together – as long as he was the one in the lead. I don’t mind a driver breaking out of the pack to try to win the race himself. Seems like that is what racing is supposed to be about.
But amazingly, I agree with Matt about almost everything he wrote today. I would love to see Brad win the whole darn thing. The look on Jack Roush’s face would be priceless! And Brad would be a hoot as champion.
I also agree the whole plate thing could have been settled long ago by tearing down the banking at these tracks. Yet in the meantime, new grandstands and luxury boxes have been added, but the banking stays the same and we are stuck with the plates forever. My solution is just not to award any points to anybody for these farces. Pay the winner some humongous amount of money, but don’t count RP races towards any phoney points championship.
Then we’ll see who the real competitors are and who simply stays home.
As long as it isn’t a Ford driver winning the chase for the chumps this year, that will be fine by me.
good column, Matt. I’ve always been nervous watching the RP races but now I’m just bored.
I knew Talladega was going to be a snooze fest. I took exception when NASCAR didn’t throw the red flag with 10 laps to go. A G-W-C restart sucks on tracks like Dega and Daytona and it sucked real bad last Sunday. Get rid of the Car of Sorrow.